A friend informed me that when she saw my recent post for Dead and Gone, she thought, “oh, this must be the end of the series.” Joke’s on you, there are four books left. Dead in the Family brings us into the double digits as number ten in the series, and this book has it all! Physical therapy! Plots on plots on plots! A Roman AND a Romanov! And lots of discomfort. Spoilers to follow…
First things first: this is the book where everyone insists on using the terms “oneys” and “twoeys” to refer to the one- and two-natured, behaving as though that’s a) something they’ve been doing this entire time, and b) not terminally stupid. I honestly can’t decide which thing offends me more. Both of them do. I hate it so much.
But back to actual important things. To Harris’s credit, she does not at all ignore the events of Dead and Gone. Not that she usually ignores the things that happen elsewhere in her narratives (although some things don’t get fully edited – Jason’s road crew boss Catfish has changed last names several times, poor gent), but given that the last novel ended with Sookie getting kidnapped and tortured, it’d be a disservice to everyone involved if it got glossed over in favor of the latest wacky adventure. It even gets a bit of a formatting change, a prologue of sorts detailing the events after Sookie’s rescue week by week. It’s mundane, and hazy. She goes to physical therapy with Tara’s husband, JB du Rone (“car accident” is the party line, which only passes because JB isn’t very bright to notice that Sookie’s injuries resemble bite marks). She is still with Eric, although their relationship is muted in spite of the blood bond, and she can’t have an orgasm for at least a month. Amelia moves out to go back to New Orleans and face the consequences of turning poor Bob into a cat.
Sookie has trouble sleeping, and the occasional panic attack and traumatic flashback. Because Sookie is Sookie, she treats everything with the same introspective lens of the mundane nature of day-to-day life, but it’s never minimized.
Eric informs Sookie in bed one night that the reason he didn’t come to her aid when she was being tortured in that shack – and he knew she was in pain, because the blood bond made him feel it – was because Victor Madden informed him he was not allowed to take sides in the Fae War, and chained Eric with silver. Yo. Eric finally managed to talk his way out, and reminded Felipe that Sookie had elevated status as both someone who’d save Felipe’s life, and as Eric’s wife. Victor claimed he “forgot” Sookie and Eric were married, even though the fucker was at the wedding, which was for his benefit. Sookie, though she hadn’t realized she hadn’t fully forgiven Eric for not being there and rescuing her, finally does. He gave her a lot of his blood to heal, after he’d been chained with silver, and that’s no small thing. She knows he would have come if he could.
She decides they need to kill Victor Madden. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you do not fuck with Sookie Stackhouse.
Hoo boy. If you thought we’d finally hit the ceiling on the world-building of vampire politics, you were so wrong. It gets more complicated, and interesting, and stupid, all at once. PLUS we get all of the fun of the political and societal upheaval of the two-natured going public. Eric sits Sookie down and gives her more background on how the vamps do things: apparently all the states, individually ruled, fall into different territories (named after gods from various mythologies). Apparently Felipe had to petition the ruling board of his territory before he was able to attempt the Louisiana takeover, because it was another territory, and if he’d lost, it would be a loss for his home territory, and would involve cross-territory reparations, etc.
And on the were side of things, Congress is thinking of passing a bill requiring all of shifters to register. The government’s sending out spies to check on local gatherings of weres. Alcide’s got a spy investigating his camp (he thinks), and later on Sookie reads Merlotte’s chef Antoine’s brain and finds out he’s been reporting back to an FBI agent. Although it turns out it wasn’t specifically for Sam. Antoine’s been asked to spy on Sookie by Special Agent Tom Lattesta, who you may remember from the last book as wanting to use Sookie’s powers for government purposes, then in the wake of the second Reveal, has been asked to report on local shifters.
Bill’s still suffering from last book’s silver poisoning, which he got during rescuing Sookie. She tries to help him out emotionally by getting him to reconnect with the Bellefleurs and finally admit they’re kin, which he does right before matriarch Caroline Bellefleur dies. Andy and Portia Bellefleur are not at all thrilled that Bill is their great-great-great-grandfather (especially since Portia once tried spite-dating him), but his generous anonymous monetary donation to them several years ago did refurbish their estate, so all’s well that ends well, I suppose?
Sookie also helps him out by breaking into his house, stealing the super secret vampire directory he sells and logging on even though she isn’t a vampire (which, if she was stealing from anyone but Bill, who is good-naturedly obsessed with her, would probably get her killed). She digs through the database with the purest intentions to find Judith, the only other vampire child of Bill’s maker, Lorena. Bill needs the vamp blood in his family line to heal, but Sookie killed Lorena way back in book three, so this is her solution.
Speaking of vampires Sookie has killed, Victor’s second and third, Bruce and Corinna, are waiting by the side of the road to ambush Sookie and Pam one night. Pam and Sookie win. Since Victor can’t admit he sent someone to get rid of them, there’s no punishment, which is nice. No body, no crime. (Vampire bodies turn to dust, and it’s raining, so thus they dissolve and there is literally no body.)
But anyway, because of the possible government spy on the usual pack hunting grounds, Alcide asks Sookie if the Long Tooth Pack can borrow her land. Sookie says yes, and then the following morning, Alcide’s new second Basim informs her that there is a body buried on her property (a year and a half old, Sookie rightly assumes she’s finally uncovered where Eric hid Debbie Pelt), and that both a vampire and a fairy have been passing through her woods. She gets Eric to get vampire/tracker Heidi (part of the Nevadan takeover contigent, but presumably trustworthy) to investigate the land. Heidi’s got a fun, Victor-is-a-shit backstory, all about her druggie son, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Because Heidi found two bodies on Sookie’s land. Sookie knows one of them is Debbie Pelt. Turns out the other is Basim, a man I mentioned only a few sentences ago. To get down to brass tacks, because as always, a million things are happening, Alcide’s new girlfriend Annabelle was cheating on him with Basim, Basim was getting dirty money from a fairy, some random other Were that Sookie swears she knows but I cannot for the life of remember (and his name is HAM, I would remember that) got all murdery. Sookie finds this all out at Werewolf Justice Conclave #87, where this time Sookie gets elevated to Honorary Shaman and has to take a weird drugs that makes her see everyone’s mood as colors, which is a surprisingly useful detective technique.
And now I’m going to get into some nitty-gritty and housekeeping crap.
Look, guys, the world of Bon Temps (and vamp and Were Shreveport) is so elaborately populated at this point, that a lot of interpersonal relationships between tertiary characters happen. And sometimes as a result those characters get pushed to the forefront. It’s hard to keep track of all of them, and to remember who’s been mentioned before, but at the same time, I don’t want to focus on the throwaway line love lives of every resident of Bon Temps, on the off chance that in the future they’ll become semi-important plot devices.
That said, we meet Kennedy Keyes, the new bartender at Merlotte’s, who’s an ex-beauty queen who did jail time for killing her abusive boyfriend. More importantly, Sam has started dating Jannalynn Hopper, who cracked some skulls at the pack takeover of book whatever. (There is a war, or at the very least, a mild skirmish, in every single one and I have long since lost the ability to keep track, guys.) Jannalynn shows up at the same time as Alcide’s second Basim and his girlfriend Annabelle, but they get barely a throughline (as far as I’m concerned) because they’re both dead at the end of the book, and Jannalynn is gonna do something important later.
Sookie’s fae great-grandfather Niall sends her a letter written on the skin of the water fairies that killed her parents, the old softy. He lets her know that Claudine, though she had not technically written out a legal human world will, left Sookie “a gift”, which turns out to be a hefty chunk of cash. The letter is delivered by Claude, who asks Sookie if he can move in, since most of the fae have returned to Faery, and he’s starved for the company of his own kind. Even though Sookie only has a small familial trace, it’s still enough to make Claude feel better. Sookie thinks this story is a little suspect, but her last roommate just moved out and she’s a little lonely and a little strapped for cash, so why not. (Turns out Claude is a lot less stringent than Amelia about paying bills, and a lot more free with using Sookie’s hot water. Fairy stripper roommates, am I right?)
And in spite of all of this, we still haven’t gotten to the meat of this particular book, which is that Eric’s dad shows up. His name is Appius Livius Ocella, and if you couldn’t guess, he is from ancient Rome. He shows up basically just to screw with Eric. Worse yet, he brings along a buddy – Eric’s vamp-brother Alexei, who Sookie recognizes as Alexei Romanov. As in, one of THE Romanovs. Worse yet, he’s thirteen, Ocella is having sex with him (it was okay, in his time), and Alexei is batshit. He was turned when he should not have been, like Bubba, and it has poorly affected his brain, like Bubba. But unlike Bubba, he isn’t pleasantly simple. He is bloodthirsty, no pun intended, and he has no understanding of or regard for the societal norms to which the rest of the vampires adhere. Read: he kills for the pleasure of killing and he does not care about consequences or any measure of secrecy. The presence of both of them negatively affects Eric, and because of the damn blood bond, poor Sookie. Sookie goes to Eric’s after the big Were to-do to find that Alexei has gone rogue, killed some of Eric’s staff: Bobby Burnham, Eric’s douchey daytime guy, and Felicia, Bobby’s girlfriend and the latest Fangtasia bartender to meet an unfortunate end. It all comes to a big showdown in Sookie’s backyard with Alexei, Claude, Ocella, Eric, Sookie, and some random ass fairy who I guess was mad at Sookie because Claudine died, which is way more invested in Claudine than I ever was. Then the new fairy and Alexei and Ocella all kind of kill each other and it’s over.
Sookie’s fairy great-uncle or what-the-fuck-ever (I really cannot bring myself to care) Dermot shows up and it turns out he was under a spell this whole time, and it can be broken by a kiss, so Sookie and Claude kiss him, I am done. NO BUT WAIT. Then they all get into bed together (non-sexually), because it is healing, and then the book ends and so does my spirit.
And the bullet points:
–Does anyone new get introduced that in theory will come up later as a recurring character?
Jannalynn, Sam’s new Were girlfriend who is enforcer of the Shreveport pack and becomes Alcide’s second.
-Does Sookie get laid and/or romantically propositioned? (And by whom?)
Sookie and Eric are officially a couple in this, both politically and really. And everyone is up in her damn face about it, too, asking if she’s happy.
–Does anyone wind up dead?
A couple of people we didn’t know, another Fangtasia bartender, Bobby who was awful, and Eric’s extended family who were also awful.
–Does Sookie get injured in some capacity?
Sookie spends the first half of this book recovering from literal torture, and the worst that happens to her the rest of the time is a drug trip.